• Source: Scopus
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1987 …2020

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Personal profile

Personal profile

I am currently a Reader in molecular and environmental microbiology with a particular interest in the evolutionary ecology of bacterial biofilms. I contribute to the delivery of teaching for a variety of Environmental Science and Technology (EST) and Biomedical Sciences (BMS) programme modules, as well as running undergraduate Hons research projects. My research group currently includes two PhD students and we regularly host visiting students and internships each year (though not in 2020-21 due to Covid19 restrictions). I am the University’s Environment Theme Leader, a member of the Research Degrees Assessment Panel and our School’s Health and Safety Committee co-chair. I am also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and the Secretary for the Royal Society of Biology in Scotland Council, and a Senior Fellow of Advance HE (formerly the Higher Education Academy).

I completed my undergraduate degree in Zoology and Cell Biology from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, confered in 1986, which was followed by a MSc(Hons) in Cell Biology in 1988 and a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology in 1993 at Auckland. Prior to joining Abertay in 2007, I undertook two postdoctoral research positions at the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, a University Research Lectureship at Plant Sciences, and a year as a researcher at the NERC Centre for Hydrology and Ecology (CEH) at Oxford.

My research is currently focussed on the evolutionary ecology of the archetypal Wrinkly Spreader biofilm-former and community biofilm-formation, as well as on the expression of bio-surfactants by environmental pseudomonads, many of which also produce biofilms. This has involved a number of PhD and MbRes students and resulted in a number of primary reserach articles, opinion pieces and reviews. Our work and collaborations have been enabled by funding from NERC, Royal Society of Edinburgh, the ERASMUS programme, and the Nigerian Petroleum Technology Devoplment Fund (PTDF) and Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund). 


I have been involved in the delivery of teaching across a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes since joining Abertay, and have also been involved in programme development and reviews. My current teaching responsibilities for 2020-2021 include:

  • Module leader for ENV101 (now EEM105) Introduction to Environmental Sciences where I am responsible for lectures, tutorials, the field trip and assessments.
  • Module leader for ENV409 Environmental Modelling and Climate Change where I am responsible for lectures, tutorials, and assessments.
  • Module leader for LSC201 Molecular Biology and Genetics where I am responsible for lectures, tutorials, laboratories and assessments.
  • Lecturer for LSC309 Perspectives in the Life Sciences Sector where I am responsible for lectures and bioinformatics laboratories and assessments.
  • Laboratory demonstrator for LSC203 Medical Microbiology where I am responsible for laboratories and assessments.
  • Moderator for LSC401 Project Research Methods where I am responsible for assessment moderation.
  • Supervisor for LSC402 Honours Projects where I am responsible for project supervision and assessments.
  • Tutor for MSci SCN502, 503 & 504 modules where I am involved in student discussions and presentations, and I am responsible for assessments.

I have also delivered on-line lectures for the EDT Silver programme and the Nuffield Research Placements scheme over the summer break (June - August).

Research interests

As an environmental microbiologist, my interests are in the adaptation of bacteria to complex environments. My approach is to combine aspects of molecular microbiology, microbial ecology and evolution, and although this might seem abstract, close connections can be drawn with bacterial adaptation in agriculture, veterinary and medical situations.

Key words : Bacterial adaptation; bacterial biofilms; bacterial plasmids; bacterial surfactants; environmental microbiology; experimental evolution; microbiology; molecular microbiology; Pseudomonas biology.

Research Supervision


  • Raji Bamanga (PhD student). Second supervisor (Abertay, started 2016; submitted July 2021).
  • Robyn Jerdan (PhD). Understanding the eco-evolutionary dynamics of air-liquid interface biofilms in radiating populations and multi-species communities. Principal supervisor (Abertay, 2017 – 21).
  • Kamaluddeen Kabir (PhD). Bioprospecting surfactants produced by Pseudomonas spp. isolated from soil for potential application in biotechnology. Principal supervisor (Abertay, 2014 – 17). 
  • Habibu Abdu (PhD). Investigating the role of glutathione and glutathione biosynthetic genes in the adaptation of Anopheles gambiae to insecticides. Second supervisor (Abertay, 2013 – 16).
  • Ibrahim Mohammed (PhD). Screening environmental pseudomonads for characteristics suitable for a bio-engineered oil remediation agent. Principal supervisor (Abertay, 2011 – 16).
  • Kimberley McLaughlin (MbRes). Wrinkly Spreaders, wrinkleality and fitness. Principal supervisor (Abertay, 2014 – 16).
  • Patricia Dello Sterpaio (PhD). The impact of bacteria on the biophysics of water retention and flow in soil. Principal supervisor from late 2009 (Abertay, 2009 – 14).
  • Helen Downey (PhD). The development of a transparent soil and its implication in imaging root trajectories and root bacteria interactions. Second (academic) supervisor (Abertay, Joint JHI-Abertay studentship, 2010 – 13).
  • Yvette Udall (MbRes). The evolution of P. fluorescens SBW25 in glass bead column and static microcosms shows an environmental effect on the wrinkleality of Wrinkly Spreader adaptive mutants. Principal supervisor (Abertay, 2012 – 13).
  • Anna Koza (PhD). Adaptation and niche construction by Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25. Principal supervisor (Abertay, 2008 – 12). 
  • Ayorinde Folorunso (MbRes). Bioinformatics investigation of bacteria cellulose synthesis operons amongst the Proteobacter. Principal supervisor (Abertay, 2011 – 12).
  • Kate Bailey (PhD). Academic supervisor until 2006 (Oxford, Joint CEH-Oxford studentship, 2003 – 7).
  • Stefanie Gehrig (PhD). Adaptation of Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 to the air-liquid interface: a study in evolutionary genetics. Academic supervisor from 2004 (Oxford, 2002 – 5).
  • Jacob Malone (PhD). Analysis of the structure-function relationship of WspR, a GGDEF response-regulator. Academic supervisor from 2004 (Oxford, 2002 – 5).

Leadership, Management and Administrative Roles / Experience

Environment Theme Leader (from 2016); Theme Leaders Group (from 2016); Research Degrees Advisory Panel (from late 2017); Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee (from 2016); REF Group Champion (from 2016); Health and Safety Subcommittee (from 2014); and University Biological Safety Officer (from 2014).

Programme Leaders Group (2016 - 2020); School Academic Committee (from 2016); Student Voice Programme Committee (from 2016); Deans of Science and Engineering in Scotland Education Group (from 2012 but currently inactive); School Health and Safety Committee (Co-Chair) (Chair 2014-2018; Co-chair from 2019); Genetic Modification Safety Committee (Chair) (from 2014); School Safety Officer (from 2014); School Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team (2015-2018); and Graduate School Postgraduate Student Forum (from 2016).

Employment History

Postdoctoral Researcher, Biochemistry, University of Oxford (1994 - 1998).

Postdoctoral Researcher, Plant Sciences, University of Oxford (1998 - 2001).

Departmental Research Fellow, Plant Sciences, University of Oxford (2002 - 2003).

University Research Lecturer, Plant Sciences, University of Oxford (2002 - 2006).

Senior CEH-Oxford Research Fellow, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Oxford (2006 - 2007).



NERC Peer Review College (from 2012); Royal Society of Biology in Scotland, Branch Council (Ordinary) member (2016 - 2018) and Honorary Secretary (2018 - 2023).


Current Professional Memberships

European Society for Evolutionary Biology, Ordinary member (from 2012); Federation of European Microbiological Societies, Affiliate member (from 2013); Higher Education Academy, Senior Fellow (from 2017); International Society for Microbial Ecology, Ordinary member (from 2006); Microbiological Society, Ordinary member (from 2000). Royal Institution, Full member (from 2009); Royal Society of Biology, Fellow (from 2008); Society for Applied Microbiology, Member (from 2013); and Scottish Alliance for Geoscience Environment and Society, Member (from 2007).

Education/Academic qualification

Cellular and Molecular Biology, Doctor of Philosophy, University of Auckland


Cell Biology, MSc, University of Auckland


Cell Biology and Zoology, BSc, University of Auckland



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